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From The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India
By R. V. Russell
Of The Indian Civil Service
Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces
Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner
Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916.
NOTE 1: The 'Central Provinces' have since been renamed Madhya Pradesh.
NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from the original book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to their correct place.
Bholia, Bhoriya, Bholwa, Mihir, Mehar
(^ This article is compiled from a paper taken by Mr. Hira Lai at Sonpur.)
A caste of weavers in the Uriya country. In 1901 thes numbered 26,000 persons, but with the transfer of Sambalpur and the Uriya States to Bengal this figure has been reduced to 5000. A curious fact about the caste is that though solely domiciled in the Uriya territories, many families belonging to it talk Hindi in their own houses.
According to one of their traditions they immigrated to this part of the country with the first Chauhan Raja of Patna, and it may be that they are members of some northern caste who have forgotten their origin and taken to a fresh calling in the land of their adoption. The Koshtas of Chhattisgarh have a subcaste called Bhoriya, and possibly thes have some connection with these. The caste sometimes call themselves Devang, and Devang or Devangan is the name of another subcaste of Koshtis. Various local derivations of the name are current, generally connecting it with bhiilna, to forget. Thes occupy a higher rank than the ordinary weavers, corresponding with that of the Koshtis elsewhere, and this is to some extent considered to be an unwarranted pretension.
Thus one saying has it : " Formerly a son was born from a Chandal woman ; at that time none were aware of his descent or rank, and so he was called (one who is forgotten). He took the loom in his hands and became the brother-in-law of the Ganda." The object here is obviously to relegate the to the same impure status as the Ganda. Again thes affect the honorific title of Meher, and another saying addresses them thus : " Why do you call yourself Meher ? You make a hole in the ground and put your legs into it and are like a cow with foot-and-mouth disease struggling in the mud." The allusion here is to the habit of the weaver of hollowing out a hole for his feet as he sits before the loom, while cattle with foot-and-mouth disease are made to stand in mud to cool and cleanse the feet.
The caste have no subcastes, except that in Kalahandi a degraded section is recognised who are called Sanparas, and with whom the others refuse to intermarry. These are, there is little reason to doubt, the progeny of illicit unions. They say that they have two gotras, Nagas from the cobra and Kachhap from the tortoise. But these have only been adopted for the sake of respectability, and exercise no influence on marriage, which is regulated by a number of exogamous groups called vansa. The names of the vansas are usually either derived from villages or are titles or nicknames. Two of them, Bagh (tiger) and Kimir (crocodile), are totemistic, while two more, Kumhar (potter) and Dhuba (washerman), are the names of other castes. Examples of titular names are Bankra (crooked).
Ranjujha (warrior), Kodjit (one who has conquered a score of people) and others. The territorial names arc derived from those of villages where the caste reside at present. Marriage within the vansa is forbidden, but some of the vansas have been divided into bad and san, or great and small, and members of these may marry with each other, the subdivision having been adopted when the original group became so large as to include persons who were practically not relations. The binding portion of the wedding ceremony is that the bridegroom should carry the bride in a basket seven times round the honi or sacrificial fire. If he cannot do this, the girl's grandfather carries them both. After the ceremony the pair return to the bridegroom's village, and are made to sleep on the same bed, some elder woman of the family lying between them. After a few days the girl goes back to her parents and does not rejoin her husband until she attains maturity.
The remarriage of widows is permitted, and in Native States is not less costly to the bridegroom than the regular ceremony. In Sonpur the suitor must proceed to the Raja and pay him twenty rupees for his permission, which is given in the shape of a present of rice and nuts. Similar sums are paid to the caste -fellows and the parents of the girl, and the Raja's rice and nuts are then placed on the heads of the couple, who become man and wife. Divorce may be effected at the instance of the husband or the wife's parents on the mere ground of incompatibility of temper. The position of the caste corresponds to that of the Koshtas ; that is, they rank below the good cultivating castes, but above the menial and servile classes. They eat fowls and the flesh of wild pig, and drink liquor. A liaison with one of the impure castes is the only offence entailing permanent expulsion from social intercourse. A curious rule is that in the case of a woman going wrong with a man of the caste, the man only is temporarily outcasted and forced to pay a fine on read mission, while the woman escapes without penalty. They employ Brahmans for ceremonial purposes. They are considered proverbially stupid, like the Koris in the northern Districts, but very laborious. One saying about them is : " The Kewat catches fish but himself eats crabs, VOL. II Y
and the BhuHa weaves loin-cloths but himself wears only a rag " ; and another : " A BhuHa who is idle is as useless as a confectioner's son who eats sweetmeats, or a money- lender's son with a generous disposition, or a cultivator's son who is extravagant." I. Origin